311 in 2011 — a breakdown of sorts

(Map of 311 service calls tied to addresses in 2011, by electoral ward. Click on a ward for more info)

Who calls 311?

What kind of workload is your city councillor facing every day?

Which areas of the city appear to need the most help in terms of access to services?

Can we accurately say that 311 calls suggest anything about a councillor’s workload?

These are questions I began to ask myself after a recent story about City Hall changing rules for adding new electoral wards.

Some say population growth should determine where any possible new wards should go. And, judging by the city’s own administration, population is the yardstick by which they go on to figure this out.

But others, including Coun. Harvey Smith, say that population alone doesn’t indicate who’s calling for services.

From my Jan. 13 story (it didn’t make it online for some reason…)

Smith provided the Winnipeg Sun with a list of 311 service calls from the month of December to illustrate his point.
The city-wide list shows that people living in the oldest — and poorest — wards made roughly three times the number of calls to 311 than those living in the wealthiest.
In that month, residents of the Mynarski and Daniel McIntyre wards (these include the St. Johns, William Whyte and West End areas) called 829 and 715 times respectively. The averaged average income between the two wards is $24,201.
People living in the relatively affluent Charleswood-Tuxedo and St. Charles areas made a respective 234 and 218 calls — the fewest in the city. Here, the averaged average income between the two areas is $42,892.

As it turns out, these findings weren’t just a blip on the December radar — they were consistent throughout the year, sometimes alarmingly so.

Over 2011 — calls for 311 service associated with a property broke down like this:

Mynarski and Daniel Mac (combined) = 30,250

Charles-Tuxedo and St. Charles (combined) = 10,852

That’s a nearly 3:1 ratio of call disparity between the poorest and most affluent areas of the city.

As well, I find it interesting to look at the number of “overdue” calls  to 311 left over from the year.

One thing that can’t be said (based on the above data) is the poorer wards don’t get their calls answered to.

Mynarski, Daniel Mac and Point Douglas boast very low numbers of “overdue” calls.

St. Boniface and St. Vital have the highest (although still a very low number based on overall numbers)

What’s above is basically all the data I was able to get from the city. What I have doesn’t break down the kind of calls for service they are, but for that, we can head to Servicestat to break this down a bit. (Let’s take Mynarski and St. Charles — poor and rich — as an example)

In Mynarski, the top three 311 calls were based around overflowing AutoBins, potholes and graffiti. (1,932 calls combined)

In St. Charles, the most calls were for potholes, snow clearing from roads and missed garbage collection. (735 calls combined)

It’s simplistic, and completely unscientific, but the near 3:1 ratio again applies.

More later when I’ve had time to think on this a bit more.

Let me know what you think.

Note: thanks to the good folks at Winnipegelection.ca for providing an “open data” section on their still-functioning site. I was able to download the council ward data mask into Google maps and have the above map built in about 10 minutes. Invaluable. 

Thanks as well to Steve West from the city.

Minor annoyances

There’s a few small things that have been nagging at me lately.

1] Police disciplinary records and the ‘rush to expunge.’

Absolutely wicked editorial today in the WFP about this issue. I’m guessing Catherine Mitchell penned it. Why she’s not a regular public columnist  bewilders me. (Here’s another good recent one.)

From the piece:

The fact it passed council without a whiff of debate is damning.

Well, what irks me is, what do people expect? There is absolutely no public police oversight body in the province that has any tangible teeth. You can’t expect council to carry the water for an independent police oversight body.

And yes, LERA, I’m talking about you, despite the fact you only look at non-criminal complaints against police.

It’s now approaching the end of 2011, and we’re still waiting on your annual report from 2010. That’s not an indication it will say anything, but still. Sheesh.

On the municipal level, City Hall’s protection committee, despite having the authority to ask questions of police brass on behalf of citizens, has long been neutered by the unspoken sentiment that nobody on council will dare irk the WPS by asking tough questions, let alone fostering a real debate on policing and police budgetary issues.

I point you to this prior post where, just weeks after four people were shot (three fatally) in the North End and Point Douglas, and not one ward councillor on the committee had a question for the divisional commander of any real consequence. Sad.

That’s beside the point.

The fact that police want a five-year expungement exemption for discipline records doesn’t mean anything, really, in my humble view. It’s reasonable to expect that a police officer can go five years without issues and have their prior record expunged. Cops aren’t perfect, and they deal with seriously bad-assed people. Stuff goes wrong.

Is every one of your decisions perfect?

Aside from this, the Winnipeg public has never seen, nor had a right to see, police service records nor attend discipline hearings formal or informal.

I can count on one finger where I’ve seen the records asked for in court as part of the disclosure process, and that came to nothing.

To me, it’s much ado about nothing from the police end of things.

But, the fact that city politicians let the issue pass in a ‘breathless’ manner should surprise nobody. Not one whit.

2] Where’s Minister Swan?

Maybe I’m missing something, but the only single time I’ve heard a peep out of Justice Minister Andrew Swan (Minto) during the current election campaign is when he said a few words at the police officer memorial at the legislature last weekend. He spoke well.

But what I don’t get is why the provincial Justice Minister, in an election where crime and the solutions for it (should be) a front-and-centre issue for everybody, has been virtually silent.

I just don’t get it, and I guess I expected to see him front and centre stumping for the NDP.

To be honest, the crime and safety platforms from each of the parties are sorely lacking in my opinion. Only the poor Libs, have shown at least some clue that more cops ‘walking the beat,’ a new gun unit or some GPS bracelets aren’t the end-all solution to address our long-term crime problems.

Maybe someone should think about the fact that ‘cops on the beat’ isn’t just about lack of resources, it’s also about officer safety.

You’d be a lunatic to walk up and down College Avenue in a police uniform at any time of day without backup or a cruiser car nearby.

Sheer lunacy.

3] Kid Killers

 14 years old, maybe 80 pounds soaking wet, and now an accused killer of the premeditated kind. In other words, the worst, most reviled kind.

That’s the reality in the case of the teen who allegedly pulled the trigger on the fatal shooting of David Vincett on Boyd Avenue last Sunday.

The associated image is a social media profile picture from an account belonging to the accused, who was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting the guy in the face and leaving him to die.

[UPDATE EDIT] He was recently sentenced for firing a shot at a postal carrier, not as I otherwise suggested. Apologies.

He’s 14 and entrenched in a feared and loathed street gang.

Wow. The theory I’ve heard is that while in jail for the robbery, he was likely ‘schooled’ in how to come up in the IP, make a name for himself.

IP versus MOB.

Although there’s serious doubt as to whether Vincett was a bona fide member of the MOB. Given his ADHD, he may have just blurted out the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Still, that makes Two young people dead in two weeks (teen Clark Stevenson’s stabbing was Sept. 10). The accused in the Stevenson case was arrested while on remand for a vicious stabbing.

Let’s remember:

In 2004, it was Mad Cowz beefing with the B-Siders, and the killing of a young Mad Cow (Shaggy) that forever altered the street gang landscape in the city.

After the Mad Cowz leadership refused to retaliate for Shaggy’s killing to the level that some in the gang felt was needed, the African Mafia was formed. ‘

Not long after, the infighting led to the murder of Phil Haiart. That led to the establishment of ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ – a police and political effort to crack down on gang crime in the West End. That in turn led to the creation of the current Street Crime unit of the WPS.

I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that again.

An irk I have is with media planning in the city — this city, rife with young offenders of all stripes and tendencies.

When are we going to wake up and see that youth crime ought to be a major focus for any outlet?

Cover the cases, get to know the trends and take it seriously when planning crime coverage.

I believe — and maybe I’m wrong — that the general public cares deeply about it, about trying to solve it.

No, you may not be able to name the kids, but that doesn’t mean that the issues and crimes they commit are any less serious.

Now that the police scanners have gone dark there may be a push to do just this. Who knows.


The silence is deafening

Let’s say for the sake of argument I’m a city councillor in Point Douglas, Old Kildonan or the Mynarski ward in Winnipeg.

Let’s also say that once a month or so, I’m responsible for sitting on a committee at city hall where people come forward to present problems, update me on situations and make presentations to me — giving me the chance to ask for feedback and to probe deeper into what’s actually going on in my ward.

Sometimes, even police officials turn up to talk about crime and what the Winnipeg Police Service is doing about it.

Given the high-profile nature of crime in the area in recent weeks, what with three unsolved slayings and four unsolved “random” sexual assaults, a handful of home invasions and other assorted mayhem— in the Mynarski ward especially — I’d likely have some questions about police enforcement, right?

Well, no — at least not in Winnipeg, it seems.

Today, the man in charge of policing the crime-riddled North End — Insp. Brian Cyncora — appeared before the Lord Selkirk community committee to present on — and answer questions about — the area’s crime issues.

I’m sure he came in wondering if his head would be pounding by the time he was done.

He need not have worried.

Not one of the three councillors on the committee had a substantive question for the veteran, well-educated officer, despite the recent mayhem — and despite the fact that if anyone knows anything about crime in the North End, he’d be the guy who likely knows and should be able to offer an answer.

Cyncora realistically talked about the “significant challenges” police in the area face (and stated have faced over the last two years), along with the local citizenry’s historical lack of trust of the WPS that he’s been trying to win back.

“I’m out there in the front,” he said. “Historically, we’ve lost a lot of trust in the community,” he said.

He talked about the efforts the department has been making to bolster “crime prevention through social development.”

Cyncora talked about the merits and expansion of a hockey program for inner-city youth that the WPS has undertaken. He also spoke of reaching out to other area social leaders in hopes of expanding crime-prevention plans. No specifics.

He talked about enforcement: about the fact that there are three unsolved homicides (he used the word murders) — two that sparked a massive police response — and said that a special detail, dubbed Project Guardian, has been set up to gather leads and tips and follow up on them in relation to the killings.

Cyncora didn’t elaborate on the nature of the project or offer much insight into how successful it’s been so far.

But then, nobody in a position to ask, asked.

The investigation has uncovered many tips, he said, but there’s been nothing conclusive.

“We need them, we need the community to help us,” he said.

Not one of the councillors asked Cyncora to elaborate on a single word he said.

Not one of the three asked about the recent sexual assaults or Tuesday’s home invasion. Not one asked if there was something they could do to further police efforts, or how the force is measuring its progress in the area.

What were the recently (re) elected area councillors’ major concerns, you may ask?

Cyncora was asked only about the incoming police cadets, and whether they’d be used in his district.

Officially, they’re just fresh into field training and are being supervised by a senior officer.

However, The WPS brass hasn’t yet shared the deployment plans for the new, blue-shirted cadets in terms of how they’ll fit into North End, Cyncora said.

Despite the fact there’s no plan in place yet to say how they’ll be used in his area, rookie Coun. Ross Eadie pondered aloud about the possibility the cadets may be too “aggressive” in the conduct of their duties in the most hard-core crime area of town.

He wondered if the cadets would have enough life experience to be able to handle what they’d see and do working in the area.

But, Cyncora said, they won’t be viewed as police officers, and will “not be confrontational or aggressive.”

He struck me as a police official who was kind of hoping someone would ask him a question that mattered.

Too bad not one of the area councillors could be bothered to do so.

Full audio of Cyncora’s statements to the committee below.

[AUDIO http://ia600302.us.archive.org/26/items/LordSelkirkCommunityCommittee231110/Cyncora.mp3%5D

[ADDENDUM] John Dobbin writes:

“At the very least, councillors should have been asking if the forensic evidence led them to conclude there was three shooters or just one. Or is that giving away too much?”

Good question, John, how about also:

“What is the status of the mobile command unit? Is it still present in the area?”

“You talk about ‘significant challenges’ — what exactly does that mean?”

“Why do you single out the last two years as being particularly challenging for police in the North End?”

“What are some things we, as councillors, could be doing that may make a difference to the WPS’ efforts?”

[ADDENDUM 2] More questions left unasked are posed in the most recent post on the A Day in The Hood blog:

I went for a walk today, on my own. This was the first time I have ventured more than a block from my home on foot alone since the shootings in October. The shootings are no longer a topic of news, and are drifting from peoples memories.
I have tried to get back to normal, but things kept happening.
A few days after the murders, there was the sound of a shot gun coming from behind my house, somewhere in the back lane, or very close. Then I watched a person steal a car, right in front of my window. And there were the other actions occurring within view of my house. Then last week I had an unfortunate encounter with a person on a bicycle. I have been looking at bicycles along the side streets of the North End in a different light since the murders. I remember the Police said the individual or individuals doing the shootings were seen traveling by bicycle.